Sakura spent the next week fighting the agonizing effects of infection.
Left to heal naturally on its own, it wasn't very long before the long, ugly welt on her back started to fester and ooze thick greenish-tinged pus. Her back became unbearably tender as the wound swelled up and soon became horribly inflamed. Sakura was almost glad that she could not actually see the horrible mess that was her back but the fact that there was nobody tending to the growing infection quickly put a stop to the foolish notion. The pain was excruciating, and the only thing that Sakura had the mind to be thankful for was the fact that Itachi had seemed to have decided for them to stay put in that deserted clearing until further notice. The kunoichi really didn't think that she was fit to travel around especially in her current condition.
The furious pink-haired kunoichi had also taken to blatantly ignoring the impassive Uchiha after hearing his utterly ridiculous comment about his being her rightful owner or something to that regards. It had honestly been her full intention to explode in a flurry of curses and denials after having been forced to listen to his odd claim and only the fact that she had been utterly, utterly wrung out had prevented her from doing any such thing. And so she had taken to ignoring the red-eyed Akatsuki member instead, not that said red-eyed bastard seemed to have notice at all, that bastard.
Sakura had also fully expected for him to ignore her and leave her to fend for herself; after all she could hardly attempt an escape in her awful condition and after the god awful whipping that he had administered to her she was really starting to expect the worst out of this merciless and cold-blooded Uchiha. Imagine her (inward) surprise when he nonchalantly blew past her negative expectations and did exactly the opposite.
To her increased nervousness, Itachi hardly strayed far and was always silently watchful of her, like a deadly predator unemotionally examining its injured prey. He hardly spoke to her of course, and she was more than happy to return his favor twofold. He also provided for her in terms of meals which she quickly rejected out of a loss of appetite from the nauseating pain and also from a sense of morbid satisfaction that her feeding was the one thing that he could not force her to do unwillingly. He didn't insist on pouring the dry ration down her throat of course, but she had seen from the particular flash in his crimson eyes that her act of willfulness had displeased him. In pain or no, Sakura had been utterly thrilled but her small, albeit somewhat petty, victory.
After the first day when she had awakened to him tending to her wounds, Sakura was careful never to allow him anywhere near her again. Itachi had attempted, of course, to clean the raw welt on her back on the early morning of the second day but Sakura had gathered every last vestige of her energy to gather the thin blanket that he had provided her around her naked upper torso and had forcibly dragged herself under an aged tree and backed herself defiantly against the large trunk, emerald eyes guarded and glazed with wariness. She knew that she was behaving like a trapped animal and although Itachi clearly had the ability to ignore her unspoken demand to be left alone the Uchiha did no such thing. He had merely watched her wordlessly for what seemed to her like a very long time, red eyes blank and unreadable as usual, before turning his back on her and returning to the center of the campsite, leaving her to quietly deal with her own misery for the rest of the day.
Sakura had once again, been tiredly smug over what she had perceived as yet another win against the Uchiha before she had allowed herself to fall into an uneasy slumber against the solitary tree at the very edge of the campsite.
By the early morning of the third day though, the pink-haired kunoichi no longer felt the childish pleasure nor did she have the luxury of staying asleep and away from this nightmare. Injured and thoroughly exhausted despite her uncomfortable rest Sakura snapped awake in the early hours of the morning feeling as though her back was on fire. Eyes glazed with a mixture of fatigue and pain it was all she could do to keep her attention on her surroundings and less on the personal hell that she was in all thanks to one Uchiha Itachi. The campsite was eerily silent in the predawn hours, and like all the past nights no fire have been started to ward away the chill of the night. A quick, bleary scan around the area yielded no sight of the Uchiha but Sakura was hardly fooled; he was definitely somewhere in here, just that she could not detect him at all.
Despite the heat and uncomfortable tightness that her back was feeling Sakura was suddenly besieged by an overwhelming wave of tremors. She broke out in cold sweat and started to tremble uncontrollably. When had the temperature dropped so suddenly? She was now feeling so cold that her bloodless fingers spasmed uselessly against the thin blanket covering her and it was all she could do to keep her teeth from chattering. Sure, it had been pretty chilly last night, but this was utterly ridiculous! What was wrong with Itachi? Why wasn't he setting up a fire or something? How did he manage to stay inured to such low temperatures anyway?
Slowly but surely, Sakura's mind cleared enough for her to realize what was going on and dazed emerald eyes widened with dismay and slight panic. Oh god. She had been so stupid.
The infection was setting in.
She had been stupid to the point of pure idiocy.
Sakura's mind was barely lucid enough for her to realize all the mistakes that she had made in the past few days. Instead of rejecting the food that Itachi had provided her, she should have devoured the rations like they were the last that she would ever be given. Her body had desperately needed the nutrition to fight off the onset of bacteria invasion and she had foolishly forsaken food for the fleeting pleasure of revenge. When Itachi had gone to her to tend to her back, she should have swallowed her pride and turned her head aside and not have rejected his efforts to help prevent the wound from festering any further.
Should have, could have. It was all too late. Once again, this was going to be nothing but her own fault.
Sniffling and trembling quietly as reality suddenly became all too great for her to bear, Sakura slumped slowly towards the ground, eyes closed in seeming defeat. The cool forest floor felt so good against her heated forehead that she was tempted to just stay there and never get up again. Her back throbbed with agony and she used all her willpower to block the pain out. It took all her efforts to just peel open her eyelids slightly but she couldn't see a thing. Feeling extremely exhausted, Sakura gave up and slipped her eyelids shut again. Her consciousness was fading fast, and there was nothing at all that she could do about it.
Damn, Sakura thought hazily as she tried to force her concentration together to keep from slipping completely away. Delirium was quickly setting in, and all she could think of at the moment were only two things: how Itachi was completely right; she was going to die under his hand after all, and how she was going to regret having missed Kakashi-sensei's ramen treat.
Itachi was sorely tempted to just let the idiot woman die. Had he been privy to Sakura's thoughts he would have agreed wholeheartedly with her; she really was foolish and this was completely a fault of her own making, to forgo her wellbeing just for the mere sake of pride.
He had known of course, the moment she had jolted awake from her distressed slumber, her laborious breathing unbearably loud and uneven to his sensitive ears. Even in the dim light of the predawn hours it was impossible not to see how deathly pale she had become, her wide eyes dilated with illness and perspiration dotting her fine features. It didn't take much for him to discern that infection had finally set in; in fact he had been mildly surprised that she had managed to fight it for so long, judging from the fact that she had been so stubborn and resistant of his efforts to aid her.
Hn, he really should just let her die.
Itachi dropped noiselessly from the tree branch onto the ground before Sakura's unconscious form. She was half-curled up on her side, the thin blanket wrapped around her shoulders tightly. Her overwhelming fatigue and sickness were apparent to him; she never even woke from his proximity. Cold crimson eyes took in the wretched sight of the kunoichi with astounding clarity. Her once vibrant pink hair were already looking lank and dull even after only two days of sickness, the impish, heart-shaped face was streaked with dried tears and dirt from sleeping outdoors and worst still were the almost obscene splashes of red that marred her smooth, milky cheeks. The high color that resided on her face loudly announced the onset of what would definitely be a high fever, but yet she was trembling violently even before his very eyes.
Deidara was right; with nobody to depend on but herself, with no chakra to aid her in healing; Haruno Sakura of the Leaf would probably not live past this week.
Of course, the blonde Akatsuki had forgotten to include him into the equation.
True, Uchiha Itachi would be saving himself a lot of trouble by letting go of this troublesome little kunoichi and less than a week ago he would have done just that; but that time had long since passed. Now, there was one important factor that tied him completely to her, this oblivious pink-haired female who obviously had no idea whatsoever of all the exceptions that he had already made just for her alone, and it had succeeded in stopping him from just simply walking away.
A part of him had known from the very beginning that it would all lead to this in the end. People rarely fascinated him, but she had failed to conform like the rest of them and his interest had been irreversibly piqued. He was a master manipulator of people, trained from birth to read and predict a person's motives as easily as if they were his own but she had never done what he had expected of her, and this discrepancy had been more than enough for him to sit up and take full notice of her.
She truly was a rare abnormality-
And now she was his.
Haruno Sakura belonged to no one else but him now, and he always took good care of his possessions. Because he had never encountered someone quite like her before, he had not known how to handle her properly at first. Right now she might be a little damaged by his mistreatment but he would not let her stay broken for long, for if nothing else Uchiha Itachi was a quick learner, and he never made the same mistake twice.
She was his newest possession, his newest toy; and he would not let her leave him so easily, nor would he let anything take her away.
Not even Death.
Sakura was having a very strange dream.
It had started out well enough, she supposed. She was back in Konoha, visiting and hanging out with close friends and family alike. It was a wonderful dream. Sakura had never imagined just how used to nagging Kakashi-sensei she had become, pestering him time and again when he refused to at least read his perverted Icha Icha series in private. There was also the classic bopping the Naruto on the head whenever he became too obtuse and/or irritating, listening to Ino complain about Shikamaru's general laziness, as well as watching amusedly as Shizune chased frantically after a semi-inebriated Tsunade-shishou when the older blonde tried to skip out on her Hokage duties. It was exactly like she had never been forced away from Konoha, and Sakura had been contented to remain in this wonderful dreamscape of hers.
Then her black wolf appeared.
She was walking happily along the streets of her beloved village with Naruto and the gang when there was this huge ruckus at the main gates. Everyone had rushed to the village entrance to see what was going on, and the pink-haired kunoichi was shocked to see the huge black wolf that she had saved before standing right in front of Konoha, its hackles raised and razor-sharp fangs bared at the guards. Its back was arched low in a fierce attack stance and its ears were pinned flat to its skull in its aggression.
Sakura was dismayed to see that it was injured again, bleeding profusely from its haunches just like that very first time.
The Chuunin guards at the gates prepared to take the wild animal down, and Sakura watched with growing horror as they warily withdrew their weapons and took aim. Panicking, she started to scream for them to stop but all of a sudden it was as if a huge crowd had appeared from thin air, restricting her crazed movements towards those sentries. Sakura quickly tried to shove past the faceless people, and all her efforts to shout out a restraining order seemed worthless as the guards appeared not to hear her at all. By her side her friends tried to drag her back within the confines of the village wall, telling her that she didn't need to see this but all she could not understand at the moment was how they could just stand by and not do anything. Her wolf had not done anything wrong; why did they have to kill him?
"No!! Run!! Go!!" Sakura shrilled; eyes wide with anxiety and frantically trying to push past those people but to no avail. It was as if somebody had forcibly restrained her frenzied movements, no matter how hard she tried to free herself she couldn't seem to move. Near hysterical emerald met wary onyx as the wolf lifted its great head to look at her. Sakura willed with all her might for it to understand her desperation, for it to turn and run to safety but those dark eyes merely held her stare with implacable calm.
She wouldn't be able to reach him in time.
With horror filled eyes Sakura watched as a hail of shuriken and kunai approached the hapless animal with great speed.
"NO!" Wrenching free of her constraints, the kunoichi hurled herself forwards even though she knew that she would be too late. It just wasn't right; she thought miserably, her wolf wasn't supposed to die this way. It had never given up even to the very end; it shouldn't be hunted down like this. Please, let her reach it in time. Please god, please-
Sakura was so taken aback by the sudden change of scenario that she stumbled and nearly fell. The kunoichi quickly recovered her bearings and whirled wildly around, wide eyes looking everywhere but seeing nothing. Where was Konoha? Where was the wolf that she had been so intent on saving again? There was now nothing but the harsh coat of utter blackness that fell over her like a suffocating blanket and it was so silent, so still, that a dropping pin would have sounded like an explosion to her ears.
Just where on earth was she? Had she somehow wandered into a genjutsu trap?
Utterly bewildered, Sakura tentatively stretched out her hands and started feeling about for something, anything. She wasn't in the forest anymore, for the ground beneath her feet felt as smooth as marble and as she broke out in a sudden run, nothing hindered her progress.
"Hello? Is there anyone there?" Sakura called out haltingly. The oppressing silence was slowly getting to her, and she trembled mildly. "Please, is there no one?"
Still there was no answer but this time, this time, Sakura detected a slight change in the air. She straightened warily.
A chuckle whispered across her senses, and Sakura recognized that voice immediately.
It was her own.
Realization occurred to her almost immediately.
"I'm stuck in my own mind, aren't I?" Sakura muttered wryly, all the while wondering why her mind was dark and empty.
"This isn't your mind, not really. As much as I would have preferred this emptiness, our head isn't this airy and spacious, thanks to the memory packrat that you are." Her infamous inner persona replied her smartly, and Sakura could vaguely feel as Inner Sakura brushed past her. "You are currently delusional. Go back to wherever you come from."
And with a careless nudge, her alter ego shattered the never ending darkness, fragmenting it away piece by piece and sending Sakura's consciousness to yet another place.
This time, Sakura awoke to the gentle sounds of chirping birds and the muted murmur of flowing water.
Emerald eyes snapped open and Sakura abruptly jackknifed from the nest of blankets that she had been curled up upon, her breathing anxious and ragged as she slowly recovered from the remnants of her odd dream. Mentally willing her heart to quit beating so frantically Sakura took a careful look around her surroundings. The image of the clearing surrounded by a ring of trees with a small waterfall bubbling in the center imprinted itself upon her mind; of course, she was back in Itachi's campsite.
The Uchiha in question did not appear to be anywhere in the clearing and Sakura relaxed visibly. The bewildered kunoichi was about to lie back into the comfort of her makeshift bedding and analyze her strange dream when a cold, wet something nudged her on the elbow from behind. Reflexes quickly kicking in, Sakura stiffened and all but jumped around to face the offender.
It was her wolf—again.
For a long moment Sakura could only gawk at the sight of the regal animal standing so close to her. The monolithic canine was currently near enough for her to feel each and every of his quiet but strong exhalations. The stunned pink-haired medic-nin took in the proud stance the creature was in, the huge triangular black head and long snout hiding the discreet rows of sharp, deadly teeth, the deep, broad chest meant for enduring long distance traveling, and not to mention the gigantic paws that were each easily larger than her closed fist. Sitting thusly on the floor, Sakura was awed to find out that she was barely eye level with the wolf's chest. His coat was incredibly rich and sleek as a raven's feathers and best of all he was not injured at all, unlike his unfortunate alter ego in her dreamscape.
It hurt her head to even contemplate how it had been possible for this animal to track her all the way here. They must be at least a hundred miles away from that little traveler's inn!
Reluctant admiration filling her eyes, Sakura had no choice but to admit that this animal was indeed extraordinarily intelligent.
Tentatively lifting up a hand towards the wolf, Sakura watched with growing delight as it took a polite sniff of her fingers, onyx eyes silently watchful of her the entire time. Overjoyed by the animal's acceptance, she stretched her hand further and gently rubbed its snout. To her surprise—and pleasure, a deep rumble of appreciation escaped from its chest. The pink-haired kunoichi was so pleased that she promptly broke into a burst of delighted laughter.
"Well, I'm really glad that you are okay." Sakura started conversationally. The wolf cocked its head slightly at her as it listened to her light voice. The great animal slowly lowered its haunches and sat quietly beside Sakura. The pink-haired kunoichi was thrilled.
But she was not thrilled enough to forget her present circumstances.
A small frown furrowed her brow.
"You need to leave here, wolf." Sakura announced to the regal looking beast beside her. "I- I'm not alone and- and erm, it's quite dangerous for you to be here."
The animal merely continued to stare at her with calm eyes. Sakura quickly grew somewhat exasperated when he did not appear to understand her words. She lowered her hand from the wolf's snout.
"Listen," Sakura made her voice sound as urgent and as earnest as possible. Animals are supposed to react to distress, don't they? "You need to go now. I don't know how Itachi would respond to you but I really don't want to find out. He's a very dangerous individual, alright?"
A funny look crossed her face as Sakura warned the animal like it would understand her perfectly.
"Come to think of it, he's probably just like you, wolf." Disgruntled and slightly bitter, the pink-haired kunoichi continued. "The two of you could go hand in hand and hunt fluffy, innocent rabbits together."
Dark, onyx eyes continued to watch her steadily, and for a brief moment Sakura was disconcerted to see a flash of sardonic amusement in the wolf's almond-shaped eyes. Sakura paused and narrowed her eyes slightly at the animal, only continuing her well-meaning speech when she had ascertained for herself that she was not seeing things.
"Well, similar sadistic tendencies to make living things' lives hell aside, you really need to leave now, wolf. Shoo! Go on!" Sakura made a half-hearted motion to push at the animal but for all the good it did her—the wolf didn't even budge. It really wasn't a very surprising outcome; she was still a very sick individual after all, not to mention that she was at the moment severely lacking in the chakra department. Still, the pink-haired kunoichi was hardly the type to give up on the first try. Sakura leaned her entire weight against the immovable animal and to her growing dismay the wolf didn't even move an inch.
After what seemed like at least fifteen minutes of her very pathetic tries, the kunoichi wasn't panicking yet but she was rapidly getting there, not to mention the fact that she was also quickly tiring.
Panting something fierce, an exhausted Sakura slumped against the very warm body of the wolf. The animal smelt clean, and Sakura was surprised to detect the gentle whiff of rainwater.
"You don't have any doggy scent at all." The kunoichi remarked offhandedly, eyelids drooping despite her very best efforts to keep them open. "Why is that so?"
Imagine her surprise when the wolf opened its mouth and answered her, sounding remarkably like a certain Uchiha heir as it did so.
"That may be because I am not your wolf, Sakura."
Sakura was so stunned by the calm, all-too-quiet voice coming from the black animal that she quit resisting the long fingers of sleep.
And oddly enough, the last thing she saw before the darkness dragged her under was a sea of crimson.
Had that been a dream again?
The kunoichi was the busiest invalid he had ever seen.
She was also probably the noisiest.
It had been nearly eighteen hours since she had fallen unconscious and there wasn't a full hour of which she had slept through in perfect silence. While the intense fever raged through her system, she had laugh, whimpered, cried, yelled, muttered what sounded like a jumble of gibberish to him, and had done god knows what else. She also could not seem to stay still and more than once he had been forced to restrain her frenzied movements before she could start to hurt herself even more than she already was.
Then there was the matter of her extremely odd personality.
Itachi really had no idea what to make of the situation when the abruptly fainted kunoichi suddenly lurched awake about fifteen minutes ago, struggling fiercely to get up and cussing up a storm as when she failed to do so. The usually unruffled Uchiha had been mildly surprised by all the especially uncouth words spilling out of her mouth when she was normally a lot more even-tempered and less likely to curse as aggressively as she had then. Unless the whip that he had used on her had been coated with a layer of mind-altering drugs that he had not been aware of, this sudden change of her temperament was more than a little startling.
It became especially so when he caught a closer glimpse of her aggravated features.
The slant of her eyes had been narrower than usual, an angry sneer was plastered on the normally pliant lips and her vibrant emerald eyes were bright with a strange mixture of malicious mischief and burning anger.
She spat out his surname with so much contempt that he was inwardly surprised. Not even when he was using the whip on her had she reacted with such outward hatred, and what's more was the fact that she had not shown any hostility whatsoever prior to her unconsciousness. It was very odd behavior, and Itachi had kept silent as she glared at him with pure loathing.
"…Who are you?"
For a brief moment, the glint of surprise that flashed across those angry emerald eyes was more than enough confirmation for him. Sharingan eyes started to spin.
Sakura smirked, seemingly uncaring of the danger.
"I am the person who would have no qualms in killing you, you son of a bitch." The pink-haired kunoichi was so openly vulgar that Itachi's eyes narrowed.
"You should act more like the one you are attempting to impersonate if you are hoping to succeed, outsider." The Akatsuki spoke tonelessly, but any experienced ninja would not be fooled by that bored and flat voice.
Sakura seemed to find his address of her hilarious, for despite her badly infected wound and rising temperature threw her head back and laughed uproariously. Itachi tensed imperceptibly, preparing for possible combat.
"Outsider, huh?" the person who was clearly not Sakura chortled loudly, the deathly pale and perspiring face totally at odds with her jovial mood. Then those sharp, cynical emerald eyes snapped to his, the scoffing and sarcastic gaze such an unfamiliar look on her that he was tempted to personally hunt down the one who was degrading her body this way.
But her next words promptly stopped him from any further consideration of any such thing.
"I know Sakura better than anyone else on this earth, and I sure as bloody hell do not need to impersonate her." Sakura hissed, eyes flashing and lips pulled back in a silent snarl. Then just as quickly, she calmed down, the anger still there but no longer as volatile as before. "You are very lucky though, Uchiha, for she would never allow me to kill you. She would sooner force me back in than to risk that possibility, so you are quite safe."
Crimson eyes sharpened at the implications of what she had just said.
"Who are you?" Itachi asked again, his tone slow and calculated.
Sakura gave a malicious grin.
"Aren't you supposed to be the prodigy among prodigies? Why don't you tell me?"
The Uchiha sent her a long, measured look before deciding to reply her.
"You aren't sent here to spy, for you are hardly acting in proper character of my captive. You aren't an oinin sent here to assassinate me, for the current state of my captive is too weak to do any damage, let alone attempt an assassination. You speak of her familiarly, and you indicate yourself as such. There is a distinct possibility that you may be from Konoha, sent here to rescue her but you aren't attempting to do so. Of course, that may be because my captive is currently physically incapable of escape but there is yet another possibility."
Sakura looked intrigued—and sardonically amused by his calm and analytical deduction. "And that is?" She drawled almost nonchalantly but sharp Sharingan eyes did not miss the way her hands were trembling fiercely with growing fatigue.
"There is a theory," Itachi started deliberately. "That when one is under extreme duress and at the same time suffering from extreme physical limitations, it is entirely possible for one to lose psychological control. That loss of control would be normally termed as a nervous breakdown."
Sakura looked coolly at Itachi.
"So, in less pretty words, are you suggesting that I am crazy?"
The Uchiha did not look amused by her tart reply.
"No." The S-class missing-nin stated as calmly as he had began. Unfortunately for her, this current Sakura lacked the ability to incite him to lose control like the original one did, and that glaring factor had convinced him more than ever that his suspicion was correct. "You are one of the lucky few, aren't you? You can never suffer from any psychological damage because there will always be a backup system to rely upon when the original is unavailable."
As expected, Sakura was immediately furious.
"I'm not a backup!! Take that back, you fucking clan-murdering Uchiha filth!" Emerald eyes flashed with deep hatred as Sakura tried to attack Itachi only to realize that she could not do so because she could hardly move. Besides, Itachi was not yet done.
"What an interesting discovery." The Akatsuki mused almost absentmindedly. "That you actually have a split personality. You must be the passive one, and judging from your earlier sentences, are probably allowed true freedom only in Sakura's mind."
Inner Sakura hissed.
"I'm not the passive one!" The angry kunoichi denied with fierce vehemence. "Outer Sakura's then the passive one! She always restrains herself and never listens to her instincts! That's why she's in this much trouble now! We are both going to die if she keeps herself this way!"
Itachi's brow lifted.
"Leave her alone."
Like her other self, Inner Sakura was just as quick to fire up and her temper clearly showed.
"I don't need you to tell me what to do!" The angered female growled menacingly, eyes feverish bright with sickness and increasing agitation. "You were the one who caused us to be this way; I will definitely not listen to anything you say!"
"Not even when you know that I'm right?" Itachi continued ruthlessly before Inner Sakura could say anything else. "She desperately needs all the energy in her body to fight off the infection and your presence is quickly depleting away what's left of that minute supply."
Inner Sakura hesitated as his words washed across her mind. It was true; Sakura was desperately trying to fight her delirium now and her forcing her body this way wasn't helping the least.
Still, Inner Sakura was reluctant.
"Why are you so concerned about us anyway?"
Emotionless eyes stared back at her, and even the fierce Inner Sakura was disconcerted by the cold crimson pits of sheer emptiness.
"I won't ask again. Return to where you come from…Inner Sakura, or you will meet Tsukuyomi."
Emerald eyes flashed with impotent anger, and then Sakura's alter ego barked out a harsh laughter.
"Very well." Inner Sakura rasped, not entirely happy but not exactly left with a choice either. "I will leave, Uchiha-teme. But come up with a better sounding threat next time; we both know that your prized jutsu have no effect on us."
Before Itachi could react to that, Sakura's eyes rolled back and the fatigued kunoichi promptly slumped back onto the nest of blankets.
Almost immediately, her eyelids opened slowly to reveal twin orbs of exhausted emerald. Her pupils were dull and glazed with sickness, but the way her eyes looked larger, more doe-like compared to the earlier version, easily assured him that Sakura was back in control again.
Then she smiled at him tiredly, and he knew for sure that she was probably confused and somewhat delusional.
"Well, I'm really glad that you are okay." The pink-haired kunoichi whispered shyly as she struggled to get up once again, much to the growing irritation of her captor. Between the busy actions of her alter ego and that of herself it was going to take a miracle for her to heal if her body kept getting strained like this.
"Stop moving and rest." Itachi commanded quietly but Sakura did not seem to hear him at all. She started to frown.
"You need to leave here, wolf." The dazed kunoichi announced abruptly to the mildly nonplussed Akatsuki member. "I- I'm not alone and- and erm, it's quite dangerous for you to be here."
Somehow he wasn't surprised that she had mistaken him for her pet wolf again, as annoying as her slight had been. For the next ten minutes or so, Itachi was forced to listen as she tried diligently to warn him away from himself. It would have been almost amusing if he wasn't part of this extremely strange situation, especially when she had disgruntledly listed comparisons between himself and the large canine that she had rescued days ago.
Then as he had expected, exhaustion gradually took its toll on the sick female and eventually she gave up the fight, slumping bonelessly against him, who had been seated beside her the entire time as she muttered away in a fit of delirium.
The impassive Uchiha stared down at the petite kunoichi who had pressed herself against him, her breaths coming in soft pants as her slender ribcage moved rhythmically in time with her uneven respiration. He stiffened imperceptibly when she turned her head into his shoulder and took a deep breath, tentatively nudging her nose against his mesh-shirt.
"You don't have any doggy scent at all." The kunoichi slurred drowsily, quickly losing the fight to stay awake as she did so. "Why is that so?"
Crimson eyes glinted with dark amusement. She really was the most exasperating individual whom he had ever met, not to mention one of the most unexpected finds that he had stumbled across. That was probably the reason why he had claimed this contradicting bundle of never ending trouble as one of his own.
The Uchiha easily lifted Sakura's sagging head from his shoulder and met her sickness-glazed eyes with his.
"That may be because I am not your wolf, Sakura." He answered her question in a quiet voice. "Rest."
The way her eyes widened quickly told him that she recognized his voice despite her delirium, but he didn't give her any time to react to him. Making sure that she was wholly focused on him, crimson Sharingan dragged her under, forcing upon her a deep, dreamless slumber. Itachi watched calmly as her eyes closed and her body fell slack against him once again. The sleep that he had made her fall into would ward away her fevered dreams, thus ensuring a faster healing.
The powerful missing-nin proceeded to situate her back within the nest of blankets that she had been curled up in previously; a brief touch to her forehead had revealed that her temperature was still dangerously high and she would have to sweat out the fever that was rampaging through her system. However Sakura jerked and whimpered when he maneuvered her on her back, and almost detachedly he rolled the sick female onto her stomach, slowly peeling back the thin blanket that she had wrapped tightly around herself to look at her wound.
As expected, without proper medical care the long welt was now streaked an angry red and painfully swollen with unsightly infection-fighting fluids. Any lesser man would have cursed fluently and panicked at the pitiful sight, but Itachi barely flinched. The raven-haired Uchiha calmly turned to his extensive memory bank, his excellent photographic memory rapidly sifting through all the thick medical tomes that he had read before.
The solution surfaced soon enough, and although it wasn't exactly a painless procedure it was by far the most effective, which fit the Uchiha's purpose exactly. The ends justify the means, after all.
Itachi stared at the quietly whimpering kunoichi for a long time. Her face was pale despite her raging fever, and droplets of perspiration dotted her forehead and temples. Her lips were almost white and pinched with fatigue and pain and she was shaking badly despite the deep sleep that he had forced upon her.
She was definitely going to need that medical procedure in order to survive this, and although he had neither the suitable resource nor the experience to perform it here in this small grassy clearing by the gently flowing stream, there was someone nearby who could. Of course it was entirely possible that the archaic method may very well kill her but the Uchiha was realistic enough to comprehend that not doing anything would definitely result in her death. The Akatsuki easily made the split second decision to proceed. After all, if the kunoichi perished this easily then it would clearly show that she wasn't as strong as he had been led to believe, and it wouldn't have been too much of a loss to lose her. And if she survived, then there would be nothing to worry about and he would be given further proof on just how enduring she was. Either way, it was a win-win situation the way he saw it.
It really was a good thing that said kunoichi in question was out cold at the moment and not privy to his brilliant deductions.